At our April club night we were asked to talk about a book that influenced our journey as amateur boat builders and sailors. I chose a book about a boat called Mingming II because it described the type of sailing that I once aspired to do. The book is Mingming and the art of minimal ocean sailing by Roger D Taylor.

Let me tell you the story of Mingming II, the boat. In the author’s words, “She would be dismissed as a little weekender, a starter boat for some impoverished family man or hard up teenager desperate to get afloat and, with her low sheer and tiny portholes, a rather outdated hand me down.”

But what is Mingming II? It is a junk rigged Corribee:
• Length 6.3 metres
• Beam 2.2 metres
• Draft 0.7 metres
• Waterline length 5.0 metres
• Displacement 900kg
• Sail area 20 square metres.

Taylor’s motivation for having such a tiny boat was, “I was unmoved by the yachtsman’s more conventional dream of sailing, for example, to the warm and balmy waters of the Mediterranean. I had no desire to join the flotillas, the sun worshippers, the sippers of sangria and spumante. The prospect of earnest pleasure-seeking left me cold.”

She’s not exactly in mint condition, but then you have to consider the changes he has made to the boat. Mingming has:
• Robust self-steering
• A cockpit almost filled in
• Washboards and sliding hatch replaced with a watertight escape hatch from which she can be sailed from under a folding spray hood
• Sweeps but no motor
• An unstayed mast
• A junk sail
• Flotation forward and aft
• A bowsprit
• A Jordan series drogue (which looks like a string of miniature 13cm wide drogues along a rope)
• All equipment stored in water-tight containers.

With all this, he only goes sailing once a year. As soon as he returns he puts the boat on a trailer and puts it in storage.

So what does he do? He decides to cross the Arctic Circle. He spends a whole English winter planning it.

His attitude to the islands en route from England to the Arctic Circle is to avoid them by the widest possible margin because he sees them as hazards; his response to gale warnings is not to seek shelter but sea room to ride out the heavy weather. Of course, he makes a series of errors, but never says they are the fault of a wind shift, a weather change or gear failure. Instead, he carefully examines the decisions that led up to the error and discusses change he would make in his ideas, attitudes, gear and preparations.

His boat and his sailing embodies the spirit of single handed sailing, and it is no surprise to learn that he has previously completed the Jester Transatlantic Challenge and will later sail to Iceland. He will not land in Iceland but comes close to being forced ashore, confirming his view that islands are hazards not havens.

Why does this author appeal? In his own words, “I have been driven … to show that ocean sailing which is simple, harmonious, unaggressive and patient can bring the richest rewards. The modern sailor is often drowned in a technological morass.”

You can find out more about Roger Taylor and Mingming from his published books, at his simple sailor website and on YouTube videos. Here is a sample…

Taylor’s writing is clear and candid, with never a hint of the heroic or the narcissist. It’s like he’s chatting with you so you can follow the process and the outcome.

Jim Stockton